5 minutes with Matthew Cole, Chief Executive Officer, Secure Enterprise Transactions at IDEMIA
Matthew has gained a reputation for building high performing teams and achieving consistent exponential revenue growth during the last 15 or so years in a variety of senior leadership roles with Cubic Transportation Systems and now IDEMIA. Doug Mackay, Managing Director at Collingwood and Leader of the Technology Practice, enjoyed a recent catch up with Matthew in which they discussed how great teams are developed. Here is what they discussed:
Doug – Originally from England, you have developed your leadership journey across a number of different geographies including Europe, Australasia and North America. How have you had to adjust your leadership style in line with the differing cultures?
Matt – for sure it’s been about understanding and responding to the different cultures of places I’ve lived in or people I’ve interacted with. Probably the most noticeable adjustment for me was the experience of moving to the U.S. and becoming much more direct in my communication – I’ve really come to appreciate the benefits of directness and clarity, which is not something us Brits are necessarily stereotyped with!
Doug - You have successfully set up and rapidly grown new subsidiaries globally, how have you approached these challenges?
Matt – with flexibility and constant prioritization! Growth, particularly hyper-growth, is incredibly exciting and rewarding but it also comes with more challenges than you can possibly deal with at any given time. So for me it has always been about relentless prioritization of the most important and urgent things and the tolerance of imperfection. I recently read a Harvard Business Review article about leading in times of uncertainty and the lessons in that were also directly applicable to leading in terms of rapid growth.
Doug - How would you define a high performing team and how have you successfully assembled them through your career?
Matt – the first word that comes to mind is diversity. I believe the definition of a high-performing team is one where the collective capability of the team is greater than that of the individuals. This means playing to and maximizing individual’s strengths and enabling individual weaknesses to be offset by the strengths of other individuals in the team. I believe that is best achieved with diversity.
Doug - What do you think are the key ingredients of a great leader in order to achieve consistent success from your team?
Matt – a willingness to listen, adapt and adjust. I’ve always thought it’s easier for a leader to adjust to a team than it is for a team to adjust to a leader. I therefore believe an essential ingredient of leadership is the open-mindedness to adjust your style to get the best out of your team members. People respond to different management styles, so getting the best out of a team requires the flexibility to do adjust your style to get the best out of each of the individuals.
Doug - In times of economic challenge, such as during this global pandemic, how do you adapt your leadership style to keep your team engaged, motivated and performing?
Matt – I think all of the same principles of being cultural sensitive, flexibility, prioritization, fostering diversity and listening, adapting and adjusting all still apply. For me what has been unique about the challenge of the pandemic has been the inability to spend time in person. I always knew that I enjoyed getting out and meeting with teams and customers but it wasn’t until the pandemic I realized how much my leadership style relied on them and trying to find virtual alternatives that are as effective has been hard. Thankfully, now that I’m vaccinated, visiting my teams is becoming increasingly possible.
Doug - What achievements are you most proud of during your 15 or so years in senior leadership roles?
Matt – there are many – whether they are big wins, important deals, or record-breaking years, but the thing that makes me most proud is when I receive a thank you from someone because I made a difference to them. Someone I once mentored advised me to keep those to look back and I’ve tried to make a point of that.
Doug – What is your favourite leadership book?
Matt – I’m a big believer in the importance of Emotional Intelligence and so I would have to say the book named the same by Daniel Goleman.